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Turkey's Army loses luster over PKK attack

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"They have meddled a lot in domestic politics," says Volkan Aytar, a researcher on military affairs at the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV), an Istanbul-based think tank.

"The military has been a brake mechanism of sorts on Turkey's democratization process," Mr. Avtar continues. "Whenever there has been a democratic reform on the agenda, they have claimed it was going to impact the military's ability."

Reforms introduced in the past decade as part of Turkey's bid to join the European Union have helped weaken the military's influence in politics. The changes have provided for more civilian involvement in security issues and for increased parliamentary oversight of the Army's budget.

This seems to have opened the door for the press to become increasingly bold in its criticism of the military, looking at charges of corruption and questioning its effectiveness.

One newspaper, Taraf, accused the Army of failing to act on intelligence that the Oct. 4 PKK attack was in the works. It ran on its front page classified aerial pictures taken by an unmanned military aircraft that seem to show the PKK's guerrillas preparing for their raid.

On Thursday four more soldiers died in a clash with Kurdish rebels, and one in a helicopter crash that the military attributed to a technical problem.

"The cliché of Turkey run by militaristic generals, which was the image of Turkey for a long time, is no longer valid," says Hugh Pope, a Turkey analyst with the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based policy and advocacy organization.

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